The Olympics Haven't Been Canceled or Postponed Since the 1940s — Here's What Happened Then

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been officially postponed to 2021, the Japanese prime minister confirmed Tuesday

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Venue
Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are officially postponed, marking only the fourth time in modern history that the Games have not gone on as scheduled.

On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced in a joint statement that the Summer Games would be postponed one year amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The three times the Olympics were either canceled or postponed in modern history — since 1896 — were all due to the onset of a world war, Time reported.

The last time the Games were called off was during World War II.

The 1916 Summer Olympics were the first games to be officially canceled.

According to CBS Sports, Berlin was scheduled to host the games, however, World War I wasn’t over by the time the Olympics were set to begin.

The war — which broke out in July 1914 — didn’t come to an end until November 1918, according to Time.

In 1936, Berlin was eventually able to host the Summer Olympics, which were the last games to take place before World War II began.

Tokyo 2020
Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty

The 1940 Summer Olympics and 1940 Winter Olympics, which were scheduled to be held in Tokyo and Sapporo, Japan, respectively, were both canceled due to World War II.

Both games were rescheduled to take place in different countries — the Summer Games in Helsinki, Finland, and the Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, CBS Sports reported.

After the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939 and World War II broke out, both events were again, canceled.

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The 1944 Summer and 1944 Winter Olympics had a similar fate.

The Summer Games were set to be held in London and the Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. As World War II didn’t end until 1945, both games were again canceled.

According to Time, Helsinki later hosted the 1952 Summer Olympics, Cortina d’Ampezzo the 1956 Winter Olympics, Tokyo the 1964 Summer Olympics and Sapporo the 1972 Winter Olympics.

While the 2020 Tokyo Games are now scheduled to be held in 2021, the Olympic flame will remain in Japan during the delay, according to a press release.

The Summer Games will also continue to be called “Tokyo 2020,” even as they are moved to 2021.

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